I truly had a good time in England, visiting my parents, attending my brother's wedding, and catching up with old friends. But I want to share with you one of my favorite things that happened from a spiritual point of view. In fact, it's the kind of story that makes angels sing (Luke 15:10) :--
One Sunday, I visited my Mum's church in Reading (a town in south England). A man in his seventies sat behind us. He was whispering the name Jesus under his breath and I could feel his enthusiasm during the service, as you can sometimes.
He then got up towards the end of the service, and gave a testimony from the front about a miraculous thing that happened to him as a teenager, when he wasn't a believer. Clearly it hadn't been planned, but the pastor gave him space to do it.
After the service I turned round to this man, grinned, and shook his hand, "Hello." "Hello", he smiled back, eyes sparkling. Then, leaning forward as if confiding, he said: "I just had to give that testimony because I knew there are at least three men here today who don't yet know the Lord. I hoped it would impact them."
"Ohh!" I said, "Are they husbands of believing wives?"
"They are!" his eyes gleamed. "They've only been coming a few months, each of them." Pause.
"And are you a Christian?" he asked, in the most gentle way. I beamed: "Sure am."
"Are you married?" He said.
"I am! And, actually my husband is still deciding about it all. He doesn't yet come to church with me."
"Ahh, I thought you were going to say that. I know what that's like for your husband: My wife became a Christian before me, and I wasn't a believer for a while, although she was."
Really? I glanced towards his wife who was happily talking to my Mum down the row, then back to him.
"So what happened, how did you change your mind?"
"Well.... First of all I spent time with some of her Christian friends, and realized they had something I didn't. I didn't know what to do with that. Then, about two years later I went to a Christmas event one day, went forward and accepted Jesus. That was the first step. After that it still took a while for it to become relevant to me. I had a lot of questions. Eventually I had a moment where I did surrender myself fully and got filled with the Holy Spirit."
I soaked all this up, as I always do when I hear a salvation story of a SUM kind, and as we talked further I saw he was a man of deep understanding. I was interested to hear that his story came in layers; it was a process.
As our conversation reached a natural pause he finished with this: "I was about to open a nightclub, then I became Christian!" he said, laughing. "My whole life changed!"
I laughed back, and looked over to his wife once more, thinking as always of our SUM community.
Later, I looked out of the window as Mum drove us home. As a visitor, I'd been blessed by walking through that church's doors. I reflected that all kinds of things happen to us when we enter the doors of a church: Sometimes we're the ones to bless others, but sometimes we receive. That conversation with that man spurred me on for days afterwards.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10, NIV)
My friends, have you had a moment where you visited a church and were deeply blessed? Or were you blessed by a memorable conversation with a visitor?
Next time I want to share another short story of a similar kind. It's one that I hope will make you laugh -- For God loves us to laugh. Tune in for the next one!
Love you all,